The Daily Life Run

200 words –

The life and death betting odds are officially released for today’s races:

Trainer’s Notes: Today’s contestants are from the North American continent and are all three-year veterans of the Life Run, which means none have ever lost a race.

Handicapping will be according to international game standards, factoring in weight, height, and skills with multiple weapons.

Announcer: “The first contestant is off! He’s carrying an automatic pistol and what appears to be a 17th samurai sword and has settled into a steady pace.

Just a refresher for any new viewers; there’s four contestants in each race. They take off from the four points of the life circle.

The goal is to get to the center of the circle first and take the antidote for the poison they were all given. As you can imagine, there’s some desperate fighting going on as contestants run into one another in the dark maze tunnels.

Note: Hopefully, future historians will understand why the daily life run is necessary after reading this. The long and the short of it, population control. The daily races are held throughout the planet. The races were agreed upon as a more human (and entertaining) way to cull the population.

First Contact

500 words –

Terence adjusted the dial and listened breathlessly…

As the leader of the NASA team that designed the special instruments that could record electromagnetic vibrations in Space, he was given the honor of being the first person to activate the scanner. The team then transferred the vibrations into sounds their ears could hear.

There was no doubt it was a major scientific breakthrough and the highlight of Terence’s career. It took his knowledge and skill to take the recorded sounds, a complex interaction of charged electromagnetic particles from the Solar Wind, ionosphere, and planetary magnetosphere, and make sense of them.

He listening long into the night and went home dreaming about making contact with an alien civilization. The team all took turns monitoring the devices in 24-hour shifts which meant he didn’t get to go back for four more days.

When Terrence’s turn came up again he eagerly relieved his fellow team member who was noticeably yawning. “Maybe tonight,” he thought while putting the headphones on and pushing a row of blinking buttons on the display dashboard

As he waited to hear strange repetitive sounds he was stunned to hear a high-pitched voice speaking English!

“Surrender and we will spare you…surrender and we will…”

Terence’s mouth hung open in shock. What the hell was going on?

“…we will spare you…surrender and…”

There it went again! It wasn’t his imagination taking a sanity pause. The message was a dire warning coming from deep within space!

His first thought was, “Who’ll believe me when I relay this message?

After a couple of hours the message went silent. Terence was afraid if he told one of his colleagues they think he was nuts. Then he calmed down and realized the whole thing was recorded He felt sheepish and vindicated. It only took minutes before he rewound the machine and played it back.

He listened. And listened…and there was no message. He played it back and began panicking. No! He knew what he heard. There must be a malfunction with the recording devices he told himself as his sanity slowly slipped into a dark place.

When his relief, Dr. Olsen, arrived the next day he found Terence huddled up in a corner of the lab speaking gibberish. “Their coming! The aliens are coming!” he babbled.

“They want us to surrender…” he went on.

Dr. Olsen went to the display panel before even trying to talk with Terence. He activated the program from the last 24-hours, turning the speakers up to loud, and then went over to Terence.

The project team covered up Terence’s insanity. No one heard threatening messages from space and concluded he just cracked up.

Somewhere in space: “I want to know who the idiot was that ran that surrender message before we were ready to invade?”

Unsung Hero

450 words –

The dim glow of a quarter moon filtered through the curtains and cast shadows on the walls. Walter’s eyes struggled to make out the shifting shapes that pranced across them in a creepy parade.

Were they scenes from his past? Was waiting to die a way to suddenly come into contact with that mystical part of the brain scientists and poets write about? Do revelations reveal themselves before you’re executed?

The promise of a sure death was a blow to Walter’s soul and very being. He knew only hours separated him from the firing squad and eternity. This last night wasn’t for sleep. It was a time to pray. A time to accept one’s fate bravely. It was a time to fight the growing panic that comes when a body is not ready to die.

The idea of being tied to a stake and shot like a target didn’t register with his reality. How could this be? He wasn’t a deserter! They were wrong! The reason he was the only soldier left alive was because he never stopped fighting and the enemy drifted away after two days of fierce fighting. He didn’t run away, and come back to the fort after the battle was over like the tribunal claimed.

It was a case of universal injustice.

The rising sun went from blood red, to orange, to yellow, and finally burst into an azure blue. Not a cloud in the sky. A beautiful day to die.

When he heard gunfire coming from the walls he stopped pacing back and forth in the tiny room they locked him in next to the captain’s quarters. Screams of surprise and pain! A sustained rate of gunfire told him there was an all-out assault on the fort.

The battle lasted all day, finally slowing down at dusk. Walter looked out his shattered window and saw fires burning in some of the buildings across the courtyard. Bodies were everywhere. Legionnaires and Arabs. He could see the front gate were breeched.

He took a chance and climbed through the window. Taking a rifle from the dead legionnaire who was once his guard, he moved cautiously through the courtyard – rifle at the ready. After hours of searching he discovered he was the only survivor. Before disappearing into the desert the Arabs sacked the fort and spiked the two cannons. He scavenged bodies for rations.

Why no one looked in his room during the fighting was a mystery. It looked like his luck had changed.

Two days later a relief regiment arrived and discovered Walter. He told them his story. After a 25-minute trial the captain said “Arrest this deserter! We’ll make an example of him!”

The Trouble With The Dark Lord

100 words –

Hail brave warrior!

The entrance to the labyrinth is open, waiting for you to explore the inner earth and it’s dark denizens. The Dark Lord awaits you eagerly. Fight bravely one more time and there will be a special place for you in hell – where heroes go to brag about their savagery and great deeds until the sands of time run out.

That’s the price you pay to play the Dark Lord’s game of war.

Go forth now and slay a demon to get the Dark Lord’s attention, or spend eternity with the souls of the people you’ve slain.

Reasons For Seasons

1000 words –

It wasn’t that Alto Morelli didn’t believe the best revenge was served cold, but at times he was sick and tired of waiting for his chance.

How long had it been since the bastard killed his brother Joey? Two, three years? It seemed like forever. But you can’t just knock off a Mafia capo and expect to live…unless you wait until just the right moment and no one can trace it to you. Rule one for successful revenges; live to tell the tale.

Alto was an independent contractor. He hired out his gun, but never his loyalty to many of the denizens of the underworld in 1932. The press referred to his kind as a “Hit Man.” But very few people in New York, New Jersey, or Chicago knew that he was one. Mostly Mafia crime bosses and leaders of other gangs like the Irish Mob.

The other thing about Alto was no one knew what his last name was. Only his brother Joey knew it, and he was dead now. His killer, Johnny Dancer, was a capo for the Bonnano crime family in New York. He was also a paranoid schizophrenic who surrounded himself with bodyguards at all times. Johnny knew there were plenty of people out there who wanted to see him dead…for a whole host of reasons.

Still, it was hard to wait. Alto was a man of action. At times he felt like a coward, taking so long to extract his pound of flesh because he wasn’t ready to die doing it. It felt like he was desecrating Joey’s memory at times. He shook those thoughts off and forged ahead looking for the perfect opening.

The bible said there was, “… a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens.” That encouraged him because he was a Catholic, even if he didn’t go to confession.

Faith in that quote kept him going. He knew there would be a season to kill, and his family burden would be forever lifted.

The season to kill finally arrived when Alto’s paid snitch in the Bonnano family told him Johnny and two of his rich friends were going upstate to the Catskills for a weekend of fishing and hunting. He gave Alto the directions, who thanked him and then shot him point blank! No witnesses. Number Two rule of survival.

Hunting season in the Catskills. How appropriate.

When Alto arrived at the hunting lodge he took his time sizing up how many occupants were there. He quickly spotted Johnny and what he took to be his two rich friends. Not far away were two alert-looking bodyguards watching the three men eat a meal outdoors on the open porch.

It took a few more hours before he discovered the other two bodyguards who were patrolling the perimeter of the lodge. Six people who he had to kill, but it was worth it to get Johnny. He was already envisioning where he would dispose of the bodies afterward. No one would ever know what happened.

His inner survivor briefly questioned if this was the right season, after all the odds were against him. Then he focused upon the task. He waited until late at night, past midnight, and snuck up on the first guard outside the front door, slitting his throat neatly and professionally.

The second guard was nodding in a chair in the living room. He looked up in time to see Alto for a moment, then a hand went over his mouth while his throat was slashed open. Then Alto cautiously went into the first bedroom. Saw someone in a bed. Went right over, checked his face briefly in the light of the full moon streaming through the window. Another guard. Slit his throat.

He went to the second bedroom. This time the sleeper was one of Johnny’s pals. Slit his throat. The next room had the other pal. Slit his throat. That left Johnny and one guard. Was that guard in Johnny’s bedroom? He opened the last bedroom door slowly. Inch-by-inch. His keen ears attuned to any sound.

Then he heard a click! Without thinking he dropped down to the floor as the shotgun blast tore into the door! Alto pulled his .45 Colt Automatic out and fired from the prone position in the direction of the blast! A man screamed and collapsed directly across from him. Then another shotgun blast hastily fired over his head from the right near the bed! When he rose up Johnny was trying to reload, but was fumbling with the cartridge.

Instead of immediately killing him Alto jumped up and rushed him, knocking the old twin-barrel shotgun aside as he grabbed his neck with one hand and hit him alongside the head with the pistol in the other. He stood over the bleeding and semi conscious man and considered how he wanted to kill him.

He thought about when he found his brother, just before he died, and how badly he suffered. His tormentors took a drill to both his hands and feet. They pulled out all of his teeth. There were numerous burns and cuts from head to toe. They blinded him with a hot poker and cut his tongue out.

In the end, he took Johnny outside for a short walk from the lodge and tied him to a tree. Then he cut him from sternum to groin so his guts leaked out while he was still alive. He stayed long enough to listen to and savor his screams which deteriorated to moans as his lifeblood soaked the base of the tree.

Two novice hunters heard the screams. They followed them through the forest. Both were teenagers and eager to find the source. Suddenly something big burst through the undergrowth and they both panicked and fired their rifles!

Alto spun around when one of the shots hit him in the chest, falling to the ground heavily. His last thought made him grin at the irony, “There’s also a season for dying.”

The Phone Booth

400 words –

The lone phone booth stood out in stark contrast to the arid Mojave desert surrounding it. But was it a mirage?

Jason Brant tried to focus on the lone object in the distant horizon. He was lost, hungry, thirsty, and desperately trying to survive. Two days had passed since the accident. He was lucky to be alive.

He’d been driving through Mojave National Preserve at a high speed (100 mph) on interstate 15 when he drifted off the pavement for a moment. It was enough to cause him to loose control. The car rolled onto the sand and landed upside down in a patch of creosote bushes.

When he woke up he was upside down, still held by his seat belt. It took him a few frustrating minutes to get free and crawl out. That’s when he felt the pain. His right knee had ballooned to three times its size and he could feel the bone splinters stabbing his nerves.

The pain was so great he passed out several times crawling towards the road. When he regained consciousness he looked around and saw what he thought might be a phone booth in the distance.

“What a crazy place for one,” was his first thought. His next thought was, “What if the phone works and I can call for help?” He eyed the phone booth for an hour before deciding he had to try and reach it.

After two days his strength was giving out. Crawling was exhausting and slow. When he finally was close enough to see that it was real his heart started pounding with excitement.

The door was gone and he wedged himself in and looked up at the dial tone phone. A pay phone. A sense of panic gripped him as he realized he didn’t have any change! He tore the phone off the receiver and listened to the dial tone in dismay.

“Operator!” he screamed as delirium took hold of his frayed senses. When a recorded voice asked for money Jason pleaded for his life.

When the Park Ranger found Jason the next day he gently sprinkled some water from his canteen onto his lips and sat him up against the outside wall of the phone booth.

He woke up and greedily grabbed the canteen and nearly drowned himself pouring water into his parched mouth. Afterwards. “Quick man! Do you have any change” he babbled…again and again.

Sleep Denied

When Morpheus, one of a thousand sons of Somnus couldn’t sleep the rest of the gods were troubled.

Without healing sleep, anger began to creep into casual conversations that turned to fights among the stressed-out gods. Sleep-deprived Zeus shattered the heavens with violent lightning followed by thunder that shook the earth.

Mankind trembled and prayed.

Another son of sleep, Icelos the long serpent, wrapped around Morpheus’s mind and kept him awake speaking of strange things in archaic languages. There seemed to be no hope for him.  

Finally, Thanatos, god of death, called out to Morpheus and offered him eternal sleep.